The Weekly Gardener 1


The Bright Side of Summer

Sunshine and Heliotrope


I'm sitting on the balcony staring at my purple cherry pie plant, which looks happy as a clam basking in the sunshine in the company of butter yellow petunias. I don't know why I haven't tried heliotrope before, it's an old fashioned cottage garden favorite and mine is a cottage garden.

Some people describe its scent as a combination of cherry pie - hence the name - and vanilla, others say it smells more like grape soda; in my opinion the fragrance is closer to licorice.

Heliotrope is a sun lover which doesn't mind drought or poor soils, a perfect choice if you want no fuss, all summer bloom. You can plant it in a pot and bring it indoors when the warm season is over, it will be happy to bloom all year long in a sunny window, but be careful if you have pets. It appears it is poisonous to dogs and safe for cats, from what I read, but don't take my word for it.

I'm slowly expanding my winter greenhouse; every November I'm bringing indoors a rhizomatous begonia, a lemon verbena, the rosemary, a pot of very enthusiastic tuberoses, a naturalized amaryllis which blooms in summer, and now heliotrope. It's good to know it tolerates being grown indoors, some sun loving perennials are not pleased when forced to spend a whole winter inside, the rosemary is still trying to recover from the powdery mildew that afflicted it at the end of February.

I'll just have to find a bright sunny spot for the heliotrope, and I'm afraid the kitchen window sill is already taken.


Lavender Fields


You probably noticed that the little flowers are already open, so no lavender bud harvesting for me. That's ok, I don't have enough lavender in the garden to make growing it for harvesting worthwhile, but it fills my heart with joy to see its light purple flowers glow in the sunlight on a bright morning like this.

I pick the flowers, eventually, right before they start to scatter, and fashion them into little lavender bottles, perfect for a linen drawer or for hanging out in the closet.

If you don't know what a lavender bottle is and how to make one, you can find information about them here. Lavender bottles are as pretty as they are fragrant.

The uses for lavender are endless, from tinctures to beauty products, home health remedies, food seasoning (the spice Herbes de Provence is half lavender), teas, infused honey, natural cleaning products, air fresheners and potpourri. If you have trouble falling asleep, a small pillow filled with hops and lavender will help.

True lavender only blooms once in June/July and lasts for four weeks. Gardening advice encourages pruning the lavender bush after blooming, to keep it from sprawling and encourage it to repeat bloom, but in my experience, if you want lavender that blooms throughout the summer, you are better off planting Spanish lavender. Its flowers are spectacular, the colorful tufts at the top of the inflorescences make them look like they are perpetually visited by butterflies.